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A Photographer's Self Portrait

Web pages come and they go. This page and my home page are the only ones that still remain, from when my website was first launched, in 1999. That was the year, having a website became a must for photographers. I actually still had a significant amount of hair on top back then. Oh, but I am so much younger than that now! Although I consider myself a very friendly and sociable person, talking about myself is excruciating for me. (You will not find me lighting up the social media world anytime soon.) But, alas, it is a very necessary part of being a self-employed photographer these days. So, here it goes.

I have been doing photography for over thirty years, shooting professionally for about twenty-five of those years. Photography is not just my job, but an undying passion, that feels as new to me today, as it did when I first started. I still feel like I have yet to scratch the surface of what I am capable of doing, as a photographer. My hope is to be doing it for another thirty years.

My roots originate in the Netherlands, the land of windmills, tulips and wooden shoes. At age five, my parents brought their brood of seven across the Atlantic, to the land of the free and home of the brave. I will always remember seeing the Statue of Liberty on that misty August morning, before making landfall in New York City. We went on to settle in a small town in Massachusetts.

Throughout my youth and early adulthood, I always felt the need to express myself through some sort of art form but never found a niche that I would stay with, until photography entered the picture. It was magical period. As fate would have it, a friend of mine, offered to let me borrow his camera, to while away some dull hours. It was like finding the right woman, everything just clicked, immediately.

I sold my guitar to purchase a Nikon Fe and, instantly, began to get my feet wet. Then I got my knees wet. Not long after that I would be swimming in it, taking pictures every spare moment I had. Inspired by the works of photography pioneers, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Win Bullock and others, my earliest endeavors would be as a landscape and nature photographer. After enrolling in a business program and taking photography courses at local, Dean College, I went on a cross-country expedition to visit and photograph as many national parks as I could. (During this period, I developed a special fascination with the American Southwest, where I would eventually move to years later.)

Upon my return to Massachusetts, I met Craig Roberts, a photographer and studio owner, in nearby Franklin, Massachusetts. I showed him my landscapes and asked if I could tag along for some weddings, which he, miraculously agreed to, with pay no less. I went on to become an employee of Craig's and, eventually, the main wedding photographer for his studio, a capacity in which I served for five years.

In 1995, after putting in my time with the studio, I formed my own business in Bellingham, Massachusetts, primarily as a wedding photographer and engagement photographer. I succeeded to photograph hundreds of weddings throughout New England. Although business was going well, life behind the scenes was not as glamorous.

The street where I lived had gone through years of systematic zoning changes. Acres upon acres were being turned over from agricultural to industrial. Residents and I spent years fighting to maintain the quality of life to our street. When those efforts fell largely on deaf ears, I decided to move my life forward, by branching out further west, to a region I had long loved - the American Southwest.

Since moving to Tucson, in late 2004, several of my family members have relocated here as well. I have already photographed close to two hundred weddings here and have added some exciting new portrait services, such as headshots, family portraits.

There is still so much to explore in photography. Using what I learned, from taking wedding portraits on the fly, often within minutes, and now applying those skills to my head shots and portrait photography, is very exciting for me. Photography, is a love affair that always stays fresh and never gets old. God willing, I hope to be doing it for another thirty years. Then again, why stop there?

Photo montage, including seven self-portraits of Tucson Photographer, Paul Van Helden
All above images, including ghost images and self-portraits, are by yours truly, except for little Paul. That shot dates back to Holland. Right now, my family and I are still unsure who was behind the lens.

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